Every week, children roam the UK on buses and trains, transporting drugs as part of criminal gang operations.
The BBC spent months with an organization that wants to help children who are at risk of falling into drug networks, listening to stories of young people’s abuse, the suffering of their families and learning how to break free What is needed to be
Three men set out to tell their story from within those criminal networks.
Nicole: “Nobody asked why I wasn’t at school”
“I’ve seen a lot of things,” said Nicole, who was recruited by a drug gang when she was just 11.
“I’ve seen people being stabbed for things like 20 pounds ($22) over the slightest disagreement,” he said.
Before joining the gang, he slept on a mattress on the floor and used to shower at school whenever he had the chance. “They find you (…) “You don’t find them”, said Nicole, who is now 18.
The gang promises to give her a bed, new clothes, and help her mother pay her bills.
She admitted that she saw her new friends in “nice shoes, nice clothes and make-up” and became very jealous. “I was at the point where i will do anything to get it“, He added.
Nicholl transported drugs across the country from the northern English city of Newcastle. “I had an address, a date, a time and a train ticket,” he said.
but gang promises never come true, “I never had a bed or new clothes.” Instead, she was initiated into a world of violence and child abuse. “I was very naive,” she said.
On trips to the south of the country beyond London, the young woman recalled crying in the bathroom of every station she stopped at.
“When I reached the place, what was planned did not happen,” he said. ,To get out alive, I had to do many things that I did not want to do. of that situation. If I hadn’t done what they told me to do, which was sexual, physical, mental, I don’t think I would be here today.”
The violence he saw put him in gangs, where he was warned “If I didn’t do what they told me, I would pay for it”,
To this day the girl cannot understand why no adults intervened, as she traveled the country alone, at age 11 and skipping school, on trains and buses.
,They didn’t see me, they didn’t see me, they didn’t ask me why I wasn’t at school, They didn’t ask me why I wasn’t with my parents. That’s what bothers me the most to this day,” he said. “Why didn’t anyone intervene?”
After 2 years of violence, abuse, fear and broken promises, Nicole seizes an opportunity to escape.
A teacher who used to take a shower at school and pay for her food after class was over He extended his hand.
One day, at age 13, Nicole appeared before the teacher after suffering a miscarriage.
,She found out and took me to the hospital., I’ve had enough. I had reached that tipping point,” he said. “I already have someone to rely on. He must know I am not well.”
Now, 5 years after her escape, Nicole is attending university to better her life. She hopes for a home and a family, and she wants to be the kind of person who doesn’t look the other way when someone needs help.
He also wants to provide hope to others who may still be trapped, intimidated and exploited by these criminal networks.
“I cannot stress enough how scared you are, you count. Your feelings count and you’re never quite stuckOr,” he said.
“If you’re still alive and breathing, you’re not stuck forever. You can always reach a better ending.”
Sara: ,i can’t protect my children,
Sarah – not her real name – hopes that her teenage son will be one of the children who manage to free themselves from the drug trafficking network. only It’s disappeared more than 50 times this year And now he doesn’t know where he is.
“He is constantly out of control, has been on the run for weeks,” he said.
“everything is time know whether he is alive or dead, nor anything similar. who is she with? Ok? does it feed? All that I just don’t know,” he said.
When her other children ask her where her brother has gone, she doesn’t know what to tell them.
“He’s my little son and I can’t protect it and it’s there“, Told.
“It’s something I always promised myself when I had kids, to protect them and love them as much as I could. And I can’t do that,” she lamented.
Sara said that about a year ago her son, who is now 16, joined a gang operating in the area.
I confirm saw some clear signs that something was not right, The boy began hanging out with masked gangs, all dressed in black, and also changed the music he listened to.
But if the above weren’t enough, the mother noticed a change in the young man’s behavior. ,they started to distance and started arguing, He closed in on himself. And then apparently it doesn’t connect with you at all,” he explained.
However, Sara believes that her son is still weak.
“He’s a scared kid,” he said. “I know him, he’s changed a lot, but sometimes, without any reason, he comes up to us and hugs us. I know he’s scared. But He’s got to do what he does to the oldies (gang members)“, he pointed out.
With the help of workers from Age North East, a British group specializing in counseling children caught in situations of serious violence, she hopes to find a way out for her son.
However, the boy is still missing. why Sara is waiting.
Andy: “No Child Left Behind”
“I’m in this trap. I don’t know how to get home, can you take me home?” These are the calls Andy and the Edge North East team get.
One night, he and a companion set out on a 10-hour drive across the UK after receiving a similar call. “Without thinking, we got into the car, drove off and followed them”Told.
Andy is not someone who is suited to a traditional 9 to 5 job. Tall, broad and tattooed, he drives his Harley-Davidson around Newcastle, trying to build trust with young people who have “no one to rely on”.
“all The youth who dedicate themselves to this are going to be victims of violence, At some point,” he said, “they’re going to punch, stab, whatever. It’s absolutely terrifying to think about, to be honest.”
Edge North East works with young people who are at risk of becoming drug mules in the UK.
,Years ago, it would not have occurred to them (drug dealers) to use a child to deal in drugs., But now they don’t care, as long as they can fill their pockets with money, they don’t care who they use,” the activist said.
He regretted that often people negatively label the behavior of the children they work with, without looking into the reasons for their actions. “I would like some people to open their eyes and see them as children. Then things could be different,” he said.
“They are lost youth. There’s always something in this young man’s life that drives him to do what he’s doing, That’s what people have to look at and wonder what the hell are they doing,” he reflected.
Andy criticized the glamorization of gangs on social media, but felt the Edge was making a difference with young people from the North East.
He said, ‘Life is changing. “No Boy Should Be Left Out”,
You can now receive notifications from BBC Mundo. Download and activate the latest versions of our apps so you don’t miss out on our best content.